Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was found guilty (and sane) last week. There is an excellent article on Breivik and his ultra right ideology by Matthew Feldman on the BBC website.
Feldman (a Reader in History at Teeside University) is an expert on fascist ideology and the far right.
Feldman notes the “Lone Wolf” nature of Breivik’s murders:
First dubbed “leaderless resistance” by a radical right ideologue in 1982, the “lone wolf” tactic has remained a signature of far-right violence for three decades – one whereby the “terrorist cycle” of preparation and execution is undertaken single-handedly.
“Lone wolf” terrorism represents a tiny – if less detectable – fraction of terrorist attacks.
It remains difficult to accomplish – that is why Breivik’s “manifesto”, comprising some three-quarters of a million words, is so dangerous.
Beyond the incitement to hatred and violence, Breivik’s 2083: A Declaration of European Independence provides a do-it-yourself guide for “lone wolf” terrorism, ranging from a daily bomb-making diary to instructions on how to source materials – both logistical and material – from the dark corners of the internet.
The manifesto supersedes all previous terrorist manuals and concludes, allegedly at 12.51 on the day of Breivik’s attacks: “If you want something done, then do it yourself.”
Feldman also notes Breivik’s obsession with his self appointed enemy “Cultural Marxism” and the supposed “Islamification of Europe”.
Feldman’s analysis is careful and fairly chilling in suggesting that similar extremists may be motivated by a similar evil ideology mixed up in bizarre utterly perverted quasi religious overtones with thoughts about “Knights Templar.” Collectively this is what Feldamn referrs to as “Christianism” – the use of travestied Christian doctrines for the advancement of violent and revolutionary views. Feldman further notes:
That is no reason for anyone to demonise more than a billion worshippers of Jesus Christ. By the same token, Islamism remains a political perversion of a Muslim faith shared by a billion souls.
The only parts I find less easy to accept about Feldman’s analysis is that he suggests “Such anti-liberal doctrines can be – and have been – defeated by robust discussion and debate.” That seems to suggest that the hate filled ideology of the likes of Breivik can be argued against (easy enough) and that such arguments might make future Breivik’s halt on their path to wicked mass murder. That seems less likely: rational debate and explanation of true Christian principles or the real strengths and weaknesses of multiculturalism and legitimate criticisms of it are unlikely to cut much ice with the Breivik’s of this world. That said some might be deterred from beginning such a path.
The other issue I have with Feldman’s analysis is that the only thing which makes Breivik a figure of any relevance are the wicked crimes he committed. The internet is full of the bizarre rantings of those not mentally ill but obsessed with unpleasant views on other people. Furthermore Breivik’s “success” was maybe less wickedly impressive that one might think. He made a home made bomb: something which all manner of unpleasant criminals have done for all manner of reasons. His shooting spree was in actual fact fairly easy to accomplish once he had descended into the moral wickedness needed to plan it. The teenagers murdered were on a relatively small island from which there was no escape. Breivik had a number of guns and a large quantity of ammunition. As such the children had no means of escape and were relatively easy targets.
Leaving aside his wickedness, the banality of Breivik and what we have learned about him shows him to be a pretty pathetic individual. Born into a reasonably privileged background he achieved nothing with his life. Even in planning his murders he claimed to practice by playing “World of Warcraft” for up to 16 hours at a time. In reality playing a computer game for that length of time is simply sad and pathetic. His claiming that such prepared him for his orgy of killing is also fairly silly unless one wants to start down the long debate about computer game violence. I confess to finding the argument that Breivik was preparing for murder by playing World of Warcraft as about as convincing as me claiming I play “Stickwar” to prepare for my own world domination.
Whilst much of what Feldman says about Breivik and ultra right ideology seems very reasonable there is also the defence against the likes of Breivik which he did not mention: by using derision. Clearly what Breivik did was wicked beyond belief. Breivik wants to be seen as part of an ideology and as a role model for other highly unpleasant individuals. In reality, however, Breivik is actually a sad and pathetic individual: a loner because he lacked social skills or any ability to achieve anything. He “achieved” what he did by a combination of his own wickedness, good fortune for himself and bad luck for others. In “achieving” his murders he managed merely to kill defenceless innocents, destroy lives, ruin his own life and actually set back any rational debate that there are problems with liberal multiculturalism. He is by his own let alone anyone else’s analysis a pathetic failure.
Part of our defence against the evil that people like Breivik represent is to scoff at them. Clearly they disgust us, clearly their actions were horrendous and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. Against the likes of Breivik, however, we should oppose such ideologies but also should sneer in contempt at their poverty of thought and the pathetic nature of their views, their “manifestos” and the preening foolishness of their made up societies and uniforms. Liberal democracy has proved too strong for properly and wickedly organised fascism. It is far too strong for the ideologies of the likes of Breivik.